Human bone fragments have turned up in an archaeological dig to find the foundations of the Alamo’s Church and Long Barrack, State officials said Friday.
Archaeological investigations undertaken as part of the $450 million redesign of Alamo Plaza have revealed multiple fragments, according to a news release from the Texas General Land Office, which owns the Alamo site, and Alamo Trust, the nonprofit that manages it.
Archaeologists found the fragments inside the Church and outside the Long Barrack, GLO communications director Karina Erickson said in an email. A statement from archaeological advisory committee formed to guide the proper treatment of human remains said that “the area had been previously disturbed as a result of sewer utility installation and former construction.
“Based on all current information, the committee has decided that archaeological investigations will proceed in order to obtain a better idea of what was occurring in these areas of the Church and Long Barrack, in addition to determining if these fragments are the only remains in these excavation units,” the statement continued. “The ultimate goal of the process is to protect the invaluable history and heritage of any and all people interred in the Church.”
Erickson declined to answer further questions about the human remains.
The discovery could lead to increased tensions among the GLO, Alamo Trust, and Tap Pilam Coahuiltecan Nation, a San Antonio group that claims to be the descendants of indigenous people interred at the Mission San Antonio de Valero, today called the Alamo. Tap Pilam sued the GLO and Alamo Trust last month seeking official cemetery status for the site and to be recognized officially as next-of-kin, among other claims.
“Right now, we would be asking for everything to stop, because we know it’s a cemetery,” Tap Pilam leader Ramon Vasquez said in a phone interview Friday. “It’s not an inadvertent find that just happened to be discovered. It was an intentional dig on top of a cemetery.”
The Tap Pilam group was among those pushing for the Texas Historical Commission to give the Alamo official cemetery status, which would include stricter regulations governing the treatment of remains. The commission instead designated the site a “historic Texas cemetery,” a largely symbolic gesture.
Tap Pilam members also want to be included on the archaeological advisory committee, currently made up of people from the Los Angeles-based Autry Museum of the American West, the Mescalero Apache Tribe, the Tonkawa Tribe of Oklahoma, the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas, the Caddo Nation of Oklahoma, and the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma.
A tribal monitor chosen by the committee was on-site during the dig and “oversaw the respectful covering of the remains,” according to the GLO statement.
“The Alamo Trust and its partners will continue to collaborate with the Alamo Missions Archaeology Advisory Committee to ensure that such discoveries are treated in a respectful and dignified manner,” the statement continued, adding that the Bexar County Medical Examiner’s Office and the Texas Historical Commission Archaeology Division were among the authorities that got notice of the discovery.
Vasquez said his group is weighing whether to ask a judge for a restraining order to stop the dig altogether. He called for a “complete historical cemetery delineation study” to be done at the site.
“The fact is that they’re digging on top of a known cemetery,” Vasquez said. “You can’t get away from that.”